AstraZeneca, which has issued a pile of research news in the last week or so, has announced a cardiovascular link-up with China's Tianjin Medical University.

The research agreement will focus on exploring novel targets against cardiac fibrosis, where patients experience significantly reduced cardiac function which can lead to heart failure. Specifically, they will look at the role of soluble epoxide hydrolase inhibitors as a potential new therapeutic intervention.

TMU's Yi Zhu, principal investigator for the collaboration, noted that there is currently no therapy for fibrotic diseases in general, "mainly because the underlying basis of fibrosis is unclear. Understanding the mechanisms of the disease may ultimately help in the development of novel medicines in order to benefit CVD patients".

Ajay Gautam, AstraZeneca’s head of Asia and emerging markets external collaborations, said the TMU is a "great example of the increasing levels of innovation we see coming out of China and other emerging markets". He added that the firm is increasingly focusing on early-stage academic collaborations with institutions such as TMU, tapping in on "fresh, innovative ideas and approaches".

MRC deal

UPDATE: As soon as the ink dried on the TMU pact, AstraZeneca announced plans to collaborate with the UK's Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology to fund a range of pre-clinical projects "aimed at better understanding biology of the disease

The company is putting in about £6 million and MRC LMB up to £3 million over five years, as well as "in-kind scientific input to share knowledge and technologies". Mene Pangalos, head of innovative medicines and early development at AstraZeneca, said that "we want to enable and encourage our scientists to push the boundaries of science, on the doorstep of our Cambridge headquarters, with one of the best scientific institutes in the world".  

Pipeline backs independent stance

Since Pfizer made its unsolicited approach for AstraZeneca, the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker has been taking every opportunity to highlight its pipeline. Yet another statement has been issued noting that this week alone, the company has "demonstrated further evidence of continued progress of its science-led strategy".

Updates on new data across all of its core therapeutic areas – oncology, cardiovascular and metabolic disease and respiratory, inflammation and autoimmunity - have been published ahead of major medical conferences, notably this weekend's American Thoracic Society conference in San Diego and the American Society of Clinic Oncology meeting at the end of the month.

Chief executive Pascal Soriot said that "we continue to build our pipeline and we are encouraged by the progress in the development of key assets. We have complete confidence in our strategy as an independent company".